Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.

Psychology:  We project onto others what we reject in ourselves.  Some call it a Shadow.  Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing. 

Zen:  There is no separate self.  When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.  

We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.   


What's the Rush? Not the Finale

Here's what's happening, but not yet.I would love to declare: Done with that and here is the answer, but I've discovered that it keeps going, the inquiry never ends. What is the rush?  Every answer has something to do with not meeting reality as it is.

In a rush to get somewhere, I am not satisfied with what's happening now. Now is a transition, but it is also complete in itself. I'm aiming to make the 10:19 train, but how am I doing that? I can aim by imagining missing the train and trying to hurry up. Then, anxiety builds and steals attention from pouring tea into my thermos. I drop the cover, wasting precious seconds and getting more tense. Or I can aim into the damn thermos and have a better chance of catching the train.

I have one of those minds where the boundaries between things are not so clear. Soon leaks into Now, and I become overwhelmed. But I really appreciate this mind and I'm not going to trade it in for one of those linear compartmentalizing versions, not that there is anything wrong with them! What I need to do is keep drawing my attention to the specific reality of this moment. Of course, meditation is great for that, and then when meditative awareness meets life as it is beautiful things happen.

I've spent this month designing an Urban Retreat for the Village Zendo. At its conclusion, I get to give my first Dharma Talk and engage in Dharma Combat, which is really just a conversation (oh, please let it be a conversation!). If I survive the battle--no no, the conversation--I become a senior student. It means a lot, and nothing at all. 


Subway Practice

You know how it is, you want to be home. It’s been a long day, sometimes challenging sometimes delightful but now every moment competes with the imagined rest at home. Naturally there is a massive subway delay. Maybe it’s a power outage, so all trains are re-routed to the local track, politely waiting for each other: stop, lurch, stop, wait, Thank you for your patience... We apologize for any inconvenience.

One night I rushed to get to the train before “Planned Work” eliminated service at my stop. Alas, they decided to start said work early, so thirty minutes on the bus replaced what I would have preferred to do. The next night they did the exact. same. thing. but forgot to notify the buses, so a hundred people stood in biting nine-degree wind for forty minutes.

That’s what it’s like to try to get home. Angry exhaustion. Why do I even live here?

How about when you try to get to work? Now it’s anxiety that dominates. I want to be a model of reliability but rarely allow the extra forty minutes that it would take to diminish the panic when the train halts unexpectedly. The conductor, required to say something, generates a plausible reason that a hundred thousand New Yorkers will be late for appointments, interviews, dates, classes, disappointing a hundred thousand other New Yorkers who counted on them.

Why do I live here? Even when the subway is working properly, a very smelly or a very loud person will seize my attention and ask for a donation. If I tuck into a corner seat to protect myself from “SHOWTIME,” a couple will surround me and chat over my face. ARE YOU LISTENING?!This man played his drum remarkably loud while riffing on judgmental people who refuse to give him attention. He thought it was funny.When I took a photo of him, he turned some venom on me and this man laughed and clapped.



Riding the subway I cannot avoid human interaction. I cannot live according to plan or desire. I am trapped. Reality is inescapable.

Last week a young man standing near me said “What does this even mean? a government shutdown, what is that?”  I answered and we had a chat. Yesterday there was a booming announcement that the train was skipping all stops and going straight to 207th street because there was a giraffe on the tracks. A young man doing his algebra was stunned, then broke out laughing when we realized it was a joke. He couldn’t work out how the train could get around the giraffe, and another dude, not realizing that Algebra Guy was probably on the autism spectrum, mocked him.

Have a look at the first shot. Before he got off the train, the guy reading a book gave the tiny woman with the bags his scarf. I caught his eye and we were both crying. The tiny woman smiled. 

It’s all here. That’s why I live in NYC and ride the damn train. I would love to say, oh yeah and I breathed into it and the feelings changed and I entered Nirvana and you can too, but it’s messier than that. Sometimes I appreciate the diversity. Sometimes I just want everyone to go away. Sometimes I’m wide open and joy pours through me and out of me. Sometimes I growl and curse, embarrassed by my huge Village Zendo button that perhaps proclaims freedom from Dukkha. Well, no, life is suffering and I’ll take a big helping, thank you.January 2018

And also, there are trees uptown.

Comments welcome on Facebook.




and a Happy New Year!

I'm off to the Village Zendo Winter Retreat, and it occurs to me that you might be thinking about intentions. I made up this form for my community, because we are studying Dogen's text on Expression, or what I think of as creativity.  I invite you to consider it, and I wish you an awesome turning. 

oh, and no tax break for me. How about you?  Comments welcome on Facebook

Till next year!

December 2017




Why I Love the Solstice!

Let me count the ways!

1. It's my birthday.

Enough? It seems like everyone is catching on nowadays. See this nice piece by Taylor Plimpton, for example. I can remember the moment, almost 20 years ago now, when the major depression that felled me every "Happy Holiday" lifted for good. I was on a retreat with Shefa Gold, and she spoke of the clarity of the light within the dark, the contraction before the expansion. Once I welcomed the dark, I could notice the real sparks, not just the tinsel. 

Since then I have loved this time. I give myself permission to do little, to sort through Things To Do and drop as many as possible, to simplify gift giving, and skip festivities whenever possible. And this year I chose to be alone, to feel my life, and it was wonderful. Without having to speak, I was able simply to receive.

That's enough language. Enjoy!

Comments welcome on Facebook.        

December 2017


How old are you?

Crones tell it like it is, in about a minute.  with Ara Fitzgerald, Nancy LeRoy, ReW Starr, Elena TaJo.   

Comments welcome on FaceBook.

November 2017



Winter Retreat

It’s winter, cold and dark. You think nothing would be better than to lie on the beach day after day, soaking up the sun and drinking things with cute toppings. Before you go too far, let me remind you of the return rebound—the dread that can only be relieved by the agony of beginning work again.  A Zen retreat turns that around. You spend a few days practicing Zen meditation and ritual in community—tasting delicious food in silence, greeting a few demons, walking a little and sitting a lot. And when you return to your ordinary life, it reveals itself as a miracle!

The schedule is rigorous, with sitting meditation interspersed with walking, chanting, eating, dharma talks and interview with teachers, and also luxurious, with time for naps and contemplation. Everyone is doing the same thing without being able to talk about it. It's brilliant, really. Like working in a cafe or library, or exercising in a gym, the company of others strengthens resolve, which is helpful when your mind wants to go off in its gazillion little fantasies that seem preferable to real life.

Here are some of the practices and benefits that accrue:

  • You get to give up control. The schedule and assignments are in control. You are given a job and you do it, whether you know how to do it or not, and whether you like it or not. No decisions! The executive function and the worker function of the brain get to take a break from each other, making it possible to really focus on what you are doing.
  • You get to survive a lot of mistakes. You will likely be assigned a little job that you haven’t done before, so you get to mess up and truly realize that it is ok, and then the moment is gone.  
  • You get to realize that you can do without things you thought you needed. Do you remember the experience of life without jumping up and checking something every five minutes?  
  • Because there is NOTHING else going on, you become acutely aware of tiny variations in lived experience.  A bead of sweat rolls down the neck, tickles a little, and then the fan whooshes by and cools it.  A hot flash comes and goes. A thought about performance runs its course, from humiliation to rage to hilarity.

How does this all benefit everyday life?  in 10,000 ways. Here are some of the cool things that upon re-entry suddenly seem so easy:

  • Switching attention completely, letting go.  
  • Seeing people as they are.  
  • Being clear about spheres of influence.
  • Enjoying the taste of food.
  • Making decisions.

Not to mention the pleasure. 

It’s really a blast.  Come join us!

November 2017


A Dangerous 'Me Too'

Me too. 

Is he a villain?The revelations have prompted a potent and welcome challenge to the patriarchy. It's time for men to take responsiblity for mis-use of power, for sexualizing professional exchanges, for crossing of boundaries, and for just generally acting entitled to take what they want. It's time for men to claim their emotional life

But they can't do it alone. Women have been colluding in the patriarchy all along, and it's time to stop. Bell Hooks calls out mothers who reinforce gender norms, is disappointed when they give up and buy the guns. But mothers can't do it alone. I know from experience how it is to go against the prevailing culture. It's damn lonely, you make mistakes, and the kids won't thank you.  

As Pema Chodron says, Start Where you Are, by acknowledging what we do. Weinstein claimed he was playing by an earlier set of rules. I have perpetuated the patriarchy by playing by those rules. I have said no when I meant yes and said yes when I didn't know what I wanted or how to trust myself. There were times I would have gladly volunteered for the casting couch, not just to get the job but also because playing with power can be fun. 

Boundaries and power are confusing to navigate. Once, I jumped into someone’s arms and they considered it a violation and cut off contact forever. Clearly I mistook friendliness for permission to play. Once, I flirted with a young man whom I was employing. Did he think he had to flirt back to keep the job? Probably I underestimated my power. More than once, I made sexual innuendos in public settings. Possibly people were uncomfortable but felt even less comfortable saying so.

Someone I know has been sexually harrassed. Someone I know has been accused of sexual harassment. Both situations are saturated with trauma. Each situation has a particular configuration of variables whose combination and intensity differentiates a mistake from a crime.

To stop these tragedies, we need to go beyond casting out villains and learn a new civility, learn how to talk about power dynamics, boundaries, and consent. Start here. 

November 2017



I used to say that I was on a mission to shift perspectives through art and conversation, but then I realized that I can’t stand conversation. The older I get the less obligated I feel to participate in what seems to be artifice meeting artifice. Even in ‘talkbacks’ that supposedly encourage audiences to process what they have witnessed, all I hear is people trying to be clever or praising things that actually could have used a little bit more of this or that.

Recently I heard the great Zen master Norman Fisher give a talk about friendship, and it was very powerful and encouraging, and of course he was talking about speaking from the heart, so I asked him: 

"Hey, it’s all well and good to speak from the heart when those are the rules of the game, for example in council practice (no crosstalk etc), but what about chatting? Chatting is all about breaking the precepts," I argued.  "We split people into good and bad, elevate some, dismiss or mock others; we forget to bear witness, give inappropriate advice right and left; we pretend we are doing better than we are; and so on and so on on."

And he said: "You follow the precepts."  And I said:  "Oh. Right."

I was doing exactly what I was complaining about. I was blaming conversation itself when I could have been changing its nature by attending to my own sense of morality.  Since then, I’ve been trying but it isn’t easy.  I really prefer a structure that gives permission via restriction.  Almost anything shakes up a bad habit.  In Fountain of Oldth, improvisational structure led to truth and communion, every now and then.


Weinstein's World

What don't you see?

We all live in Hollyworld, even Weinstein.  For sure, the man was wrong to abuse his power, to use beautiful women to address whatever deep dissatisfaction he couldn’t live with.  And I am heartened to see women coming out about their experiences, but just as we don’t fix hatred by killing off Trump, we don’t fix misogyny by getting rid of Weinstein.

Click to read more ...


No comment

Do not like me.  Do not agree or disagree.  

It isn't that it doesn't matter what you think of me. It is that it matters too much, so much that shape shifting gives me whip lash. I know that I am not alone among women in having a tenuous hold on... 

Funny how many words I just auditioned. Tenuous hold on what? From the Zen perspective there is nothing to hold on to. No self, no perspective, no separation. And yet, I lose track of something subjective and subtle when my attention is on the audience, like I'm splashing so much that I can't see the contours of the deep blue sea.  

Anyway, this is not a popular blog.  Only my mother and my Zen teacher and Marta Renzi regularly made comments. I appreciate their efforts but there are too many other things to keep up with. 

Plus, there are other ways to have a conversation. You can use the Connect page or reach me on Facebook, and from time to time I will post comments in a follow-up to the relevant post.   

I appreciate you, Dear Reader, very much!  

October 2017